Olympic trustees have approved spending more than $50 million on three of the biggest projects for the 2002 Winter Games, even though a new budget won't be completed until this fall.
The money will pay for new facilities at the Utah Winter Sports Park near Park City as well as designing a cover for the speed-skating oval in Kearns and planning for the biathlon and cross-country courses near Midway.The spending worried Nolan Karras, a financial planner and former speaker of the Utah House who represents Gov. Mike Leavitt on the Salt Lake Organizing Committee board of trustees.
Karras voted in favor of the projects at Thursday's board meeting but not before asking why the decision had to be made before a major overhaul of the $1 billion-plus budget for the Olympics is finished in September.
"I get dang nervous, and I think you ought to be nervous," Karras told the trustees, who'd spent the morning talking about how much power they should have over organizing committee decisions.
Also raising concerns was trustee Verl Topham, an executive with the power company, PacifiCorp. Topham said he didn't want to vote on one of the projects because the design team had not yet been selected.
Topham agreed to let organizing committee officials select a firm to design the speedskating oval enclosure, a project estimated to cost $250,000, but not before telling them he didn't like feeling pressured to vote.
The situation "points out the problem of bringing everything (to the board) at the last possible moment," Topham said. "I'm not in favor of that, and I won't do it again."
All three projects are on tight schedules, the trustees were told. Olympic organizers are expected to have each of the competition venues completed at least a year early so test events can be held.
The biggest project approved Thursday was a contract for work at the Utah Winter Sports Park. The contract, worth up to $45.6 million, was awarded to Jacobsen Construction Co.
The job includes tearing down the park's existing 90-meter ski jump and rebuilding it along with a new, 120-meter ski jump. New support facilities will be added to the bobsled and luge track already there.
Another contract was awarded to EDAW Inc. to come up with a design for the biathlon and cross-country venue recently relocated to the Soldier Hollow area of Wasatch Mountain State Park. The contract is not to exceed $250,000.
Also Thursday, trustees were told the organizing committee has reached agreement with the University of Utah over payment for the use of student housing for athletes during the Games.
The U. is planning to build new apartment-style dorms at Fort Douglas that will become the Olympic Village in 2002. Organizers had agreed to give the campus $28 million that year, but U. officials wanted the money sooner.
So both sides agreed on a formula that will provide the campus with $22.5 million to $23 million from the organizing committee.